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Dr. Ahmed Awad Bin Mubarak, a Fierce Advocate for Cultural Heritage, Appointed Foreign Minister of Yemen

February 4, 2021

The Antiquities Coalition congratulates H.E. Ahmed Awad Bin Mubarak on his appointment as the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Yemen after serving for more than five years as the country’s Ambassador to the United States.

During his tenure as Ambassador, H.E. Mubarak worked tirelessly to protect Yemen’s rich cultural heritage from the many bad actors seeking to use the conflict embroiling the country as an opportunity to loot, smuggle, and sell its priceless artifacts.

As part of the effort, Antiquities Coalition Founder and Chairman Deborah Lehr published an op-ed with H.E. Mubarak in the Washington Post, calling for the Treasury Department to use its authorities to issue an emergency executive order adding Yemeni antiquities to the list of sanctioned items prevented from import to the United States.

Published on January 1, 2019, the op-ed garnered the attention of many prominent figures, including Eliot Engel, then the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and NPR’s Leila Fadel, who amplified the call for emergency sanctions.

H.E. Mubarak’s efforts to preserve Yemen’s art and antiquities did not stop there. He supported efforts by the Antiquities Coalition to release a report containing the records of 1,631 objects that had gone missing from Yemen’s museums during its recent years of conflict with Houthi militias and Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, with the goal of engaging the art market, law enforcement, museums, and the public to help to recover these blood antiquities.

“Terrorists and extremists alike also destroy cultural heritage sites for ideological or propaganda reasons, while looting and trafficking antiquities to finance additional brutalities. Yemen is especially vulnerable to this cultural racketeering,” H.E. Mubarak said. “Organized criminals, armed insurgents, and violent groups are plundering our treasures and are smuggling them overseas. Let us combat this crime against civilization and work together for long-term solutions to protecting our cultural heritage and in a manner writ large.”

H.E. Mubarak was also instrumental in securing his country’s ratification of the main international treaty to combat the looting and trafficking of art and antiquities, the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. With this accomplished, Yemen was able to request a bilateral agreement with the United States under the U.S. Cultural Property Implementation Act, which it did immediately. The U.S. government responded for H.E. Mubarak’s calls for action—and, in February 2020, announced that it would impose “emergency import restrictions on certain archaeological and ethnological material from the Republic of Yemen,” requiring those importing at-risk Yemeni cultural material into the United States to provide proof that it left the country before that date or legally after it.

We hope that Minister Mubarak will continue his role as a leader in protecting cultural heritage as he takes on his new responsibilities, and we wish him much success.